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Tag: Pierce County budget


Pierce County budget meetings will intensify next week as department heads troop before the County Council with requests

Pat McCarthy

Roger Bush

Budget deliberations by the Pierce County Council will pick up speed next week as the panel hears from a number of department heads, including budget director Patrick Kenney, Parks and Recreation Director Kathy-Kravit Smith, Sheriff Paul Pastor, Public Works Director Brian Ziegler, county judges and others.

Council Chairman Roger Bush will preside over the meetings of the seven-member panel.

Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy last month proposed a $760 million budget package for 2011. It includes cuts in some areas, a few unfilled jobs and layoffs, and raises for workers. But it lacks the draconian cuts made in the last couple of years.

Still, the county’s departments are being asked to conserve and consolidate where they can, McCarthy  said.

Under the county charter, the executive proposes the budget but the council is responsible for refining it, if necessary, and then passing it into law.

The spotlight is on the county’s $268 million general fund because it pays for public safety items such as sheriff’s deputies, courts and criminal justice services, parks and recreation, and planning and land services.

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Pierce County budget cuts coming in July?

If you’re wondering when Pierce County might see another round of budget cuts, mark July 20 on your calendar.

The County Council on Tuesday set that date to hear three ordinances related to the 2010 budget. For now the ordinances contain no specific changes to the budget. But as the date approaches the council likely will propose amendments that spell out specific cuts or other adjustments.

Last month the council and County Executive Pat McCarthy trimmed $4.9 million from the county’s $269.3 million general fund. County officials already have signaled another cut may be coming later this year

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Pierce County finds 3,209 illegal structures

Pierce County has identified more than 3,200 illegal garages and other structures under a controversial program that uses aerial photographs to spot buildings constructed without a permit.

Gordon Aleshire, assistant director of the county’s planning department, told a County Council committee Monday the program has prompted hundreds of property owners to seek amnesty for their illegal buildings. And it has generated more than $107,000 in revenue for the county as property owners seek building permits they should have obtained in the first place.

But council members remain critical of the program, which some local residents see as a Big Brother-style high-tech surveillance program.

“This has been a troubling program to a number of council members,” Chairman Roger Bush, R-Frederickson, said at a meting of the council’s Community Development Committee Monday.

The planning department launched its “building amnesty” program in October. Under that program, the county compares aerial photographs taken in 2005 and 2008 to identify structures built without a permit.

Property owners can avoid penalties by applying for amnesty and seeking the building permits and inspections they should have obtained when they built the structure.

According to the program’s latest report:

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Pierce County to consolidate departments

Pierce County will consolidate its community services and human services departments as it tries to save money and streamline services.

County Executive Pat McCarthy announced the consolidation this morning.

“We can set up a system that delivers better outcomes, helping more citizens who need our assistance,” McCarthy said in a statement announcing the move. She notified employees in both departments late last week.

The county’s human services department includes services like chemical dependency, mental health and long-term care. Community services covers everything from arts and tourism to homeless assistance and low-income housing.

For several months Deputy Executive Kevin Phelps has led a group studying a possible consolidation of the departments. The group concluded that combining the departments will result in a more effective delivery of services.

Many questions remain to be answered. Among them: how much money, if any, will be saved. The team will spend the next few months creating a detailed implementation plan.

You can view its recommendations to the executive here.

The consolidation of human and community services might be the first phase of a major consolidation of county government. McCarthy ran for executive two years ago on a pledge to improve customer service and find efficiencies in county government.

In addition, the County Council has asked McCarthy to study combining the planning and public works departments. It also has asked the executive to study combining human resources, budget and finance, facilities, risk management and information technology into a new “general services division.”

Reports on those possible consolidations are expected this fall.

You can read today’s announcement of the human services/community services consolidation below.

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Another round of Pierce County budget cuts?

Pierce County’s financial situation remains tenuous even after the County Council approved a $4.9 million budget cut this month.

At a council budget meeting Monday, county budget director Patrick Kenney wouldn’t rule out another round of cuts later this year. Next year also looks tough, Kenney said.

“As of now, I wouldn’t recommend you do anything,” Kenney said when asked about the possibility of another budget cut this year. “But we need more data.”

It’s been a tough year for Pierce County’s budget. After a series of budget cuts last year, the council this month cut another $4.9 million from the county’s $269.3 million general fund budget. That will mean cuts to popular programs like 4-H and staff cuts in some departments.

But the county’s latest financial report shows that wasn’t enough to bridge a projected $5.6 million the gap between budgeted spending and shrinking county revenue.

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Who’s the highest-paid Pierce County government employee?

Who is Pierce County government’s highest paid employee?

The answer: Dr. Miguel Balderrama, medical director at the Pierce County Jail. He grossed $186,455 in 2009, according to pay data obtained by The News Tribune and posted on our SoundInfo web page.

Balderrama was one of 371 Pierce County employees who earned six-figure salaries last year, a News Tribune analysis found. That’s a 70 percent increase from 2008, when 218 county employees earned at least $100,000. In 2007 187 employees earned six-figure pay.

Why the big increase? Overtime at the short-staffed county jail is a factor. So are inflation-driven cost-of-living raises for all employees – including a 5.2 percent raise last year. Throw in an extra paycheck last year because of a quirk in the calendar, and you’ve got a big jump in the number of employees earning at least $100,000.

Look for a full report in Sunday’s News Tribune. In the meantime, you can view the 2009 pay for some 3,700 county employees here. Below is a list of the top earners in the county last year.

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Pierce County Council, exec at odds – again

If you needed more evidence that relations between the Pierce County Council and County Executive Pat McCarthy remain strained, look no further than Monday’s council rules committee meeting.

Pat McCarthy

McCarthy accused the council of springing major budget cuts on the public at the last minute. Council Chairman Roger Bush, R-Graham, accuse the Democratic executive of ignoring council requests for information. The executive walked out of the meeting during the chairman’s remarks.

It was like 2009 all over again.

As I reported in December, the executive and council were at odds for much of last year. Monday’s rules committee meeting indicates relations remain strained despite pledges of cooperation.

At the meeting, McCarthy complained that the council unveiled a proposed $5.3 million cut to the general fund budget on the Friday before Easter without consulting her. And she noted the version considered by the rules committee Monday was different than the version released Friday.

McCarthy has complained several times that the council works in secret, unveiling substantive budget and other proposals at the last minute. She’s said that gives the public and county officials little or no time to review the proposals before the council adopts them.

On Monday she used the word “subterfuge” to describe the council’s handling of the budget cuts. She urged the council to wait a week to give the public a chance to review the cuts.

“I don’t see what the rush is to move forward,” McCarthy said.

Nonetheless, the council appears ready to move forward with the budget cuts today. Bush indicated there will be more last-minute amendments unveiled at the council’s 3 p.m. meeting.

Bush took exception to McCarthy’s remarks. “I don’t think this council has ever used subterfuge,” the chairman said.

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Pierce council may trim budget $5.4 million

The Pierce County Council may trim spending by $5.4 million as the county wrestles with declining revenue.

The council also may freeze county hiring, ban most out-of-state travel and eliminate non-mandatory training to help balance the budget.

The proposal likely would mean layoffs in the planning department and cuts to such programs as 4-H and the Pierce County Fair. But spending on law enforcement and corrections would be spared under a plan approved by the council’s rules committee Monday. The full council will consider the measure Tuesday.

“It’s simply hard choices on top of hard choices,” council Chairman Roger Bush, R-Graham, said

Roger Bush

at Monday’s committee meeting.

It’s been a year of hard choices for Pierce County.

The council twice reduced spending in 2009. In November it approved a $793 million 2010 budget that was 7 percent lower than the 2009 budget approved a year earlier.

The council cut more than 300 jobs, raised fees and eliminated services at 16 parks to balance this year’s spending plan. But it apparently wasn’t enough.

The latest revenue figures show sales tax receipts and planning department fees and charges.

Exactly how much they’re down is a subject of debate between the County Council and County Executive Pat McCarthy.

McCarthy has proposed a plan to cover a projected $4.1 million revenue shortfall in the county’s $269.3 million general fund.

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